Writing With Music: We All Do It

You know that song. That one song that created vivid thoughts and ideas in your head. Did it contribute to a story? It happens all the time, we writers find inspiration everywhere. Some while mediating after Yoga or breaking into their own house after you forgot your keys. “That would make a great story.” Most of the time it’s almost uncontrollable, but if you manipulate your surroundings I believe you can set yourself in the right mind set. It’s like a rockstar listening to music before the go out on stage. That’s what you are a writing rockstar. Besides a little exercise the right music is also essential to clearing the mind and focusing.

What I listen To.

Depending on the genre I find different music useful. For example, a good sci-fi story with the ambiance of some techno perhaps some dubstep really let’s my dive into those scenes, especially those cyber punk clubs with the insane dj’s and rockstars. The UK makes the best dubstep and I’m also a huge Dillion Francis fan.

Now speculative fiction seems easier to write with some poppy punk music for me. Throw me some MXPX, The Offspring or even some Ramones. Why? I have no clue.

Horror, is usually heavy or violent. Combichrist, Three Days Grace or The Misfits.

I started writing noir. Seems like everyone is doing it and everyone keeps sending my pulp fic and noir books to read. So now I’m there, typing about a man who’s a total jerk, but he’s gotta win, well very few people win in my stories. Anyways, Alkaline Trio or Tom Waits.

Why It Helps.

That constant mood, it’s not always there. I’ll write 1/3 of my story in the john and another while I watch television. Days later it’s finished throughout the day, either between waiting for someone or something, eating, or doing who knows what. But every time the mood is different. I always regret not writing in one sitting. It’s not always possible, but if you started an album or genre of music and used it every time you began to write again, it has a better grip on that mood you were in.

Everyone is different, but I think you should try it and let me know. Perhaps give me a tip on writing other genres.

-L. Vera

Crime Pop?

I was listening to Skydaddies’ “Murder in the Park”, a fine Beatlesesque — no, really more Rutlesesque! Not because it’s a parody, but because it knows how it’s being Beatlesesque, if you know what I mean — tune about a girl who takes pictures of a murder in a park and it struck me that there’s a good amount of crime music in unexpected places. Not in rap songs about poppin’ caps in someone’s arse or thrash metal about KILLING! but in more unusual places.

There’s the odd novelty one-off like The Buoys’ “Timothy” (Rupert Holmes, you have so much to answer for), but I’m really thinking about surprising eruptions among the more unlikely folks. Like Kate Bush: national treasure, lovely woman, secretly morbid film fan. Of course there’s “Hammer Horror”, that paean to the famous film studio, but there’s also delicious “Coffee Homeground” — a sort of Arsenic & Old Lace adventure. Wonderful lyrics include:

Pictures of Crippen / Lipstick-smeared / torn wall paper / have the walls got ears here?

In a similar fashion, you might be surprised to find how morbid Sir Paul is throughout his career. While John might have sung “Run for Your Life” it was Macca who dwelt on “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” with its jaunty-yet-bloody chorus,

Bang bang Maxwell’s silver hammer comes down upon her head / Bang bang Maxwell’s silver hammer made sure that she was dead…

And it wasn’t just youthful exploits; his Flowers in the Dirt LP (well, it was an LP when I bought it >_<) features a truly morbid song, “Don’t Be Careless Love” in which the narrator pictures all the horrible fates that might befall his beloved because “something could be terribly wrong”:

Saw your face in the morning paper / saw your body rolled up in a rug / chopped up into tiny pieces / by some thug!

Probably the ultimate example is the a capella song “Me and a Gun” by Tori Amos, which details her survival of an abduction and rape at gun point. There’s no way to convey the power of being in a rapt and silent audience when Amos sings this song. Harrowing.

Ah, but let’s end on a jauntier note with some Hank. I write a lot of stories that have their genesis in lyrics, but who knew it went the other way, too. What “crime pop” songs would you suggest?